Claudio Ranieri has denied player power lost him his job as Leicester manager, but admitted “someone behind me” did.
Less than a year after guiding the Foxes to a stunning Premier League title success, the Italian was sacked amid a relegation battle.
Several key players were unable to perform as they had done in the previous campaign, but form improved drastically after his departure.
New boss Craig Shakespeare won his first six games in charge – Ranieri’s former assistant only suffered a defeat for the first time against Everton on Sunday.
The swing in form after Ranieri’s exit added fuel to the stories that the players had forced him out, but he refuses to believe them.
Speaking for the first time since the sacking, he told Monday Night Football: “I don’t believe rumours the players spoke to the Leicester owners about sacking me.
“The players got to experience something totally different. In pre-season they played against big teams, went all over the world.
“I don’t believe the players killed me.”
However, Ranieri did allude to someone behind the scenes having an involvement in his dismissal, although he would not name names.
“I listened to a lot of stories about this,” he added.
“Maybe it could be someone behind me, but maybe the little problem I had before the title, maybe they push a little more when we lose this year.
“I don’t want to tell. I am a serious man, a loyal man. What I have to say, I say face-to-face.”
Ranieri believes Leicester’s upturn in fortunes actually started when they travelled to Sevilla in the Champions League.
They were beaten 2-1 in what turned out to be Ranieri’s last game in charge, but Jamie Vardy’s goal helped the Foxes subsequently go through 3-2 on aggregate.
Reflecting on his sacking, the 65-year-old said: “Of course it wasn’t easy, because I knew that the second year was totally different.
“When you have won the title, the players have to understand what happened, to reset their minds, because it’s not easy, and we were not a team that was used to fighting for the title, we were a little team and then ‘explosion’, we won the title.
“Then we had to stay calm. I believe that sooner or later we would turn. The turning point was the Sevilla match. In the second half everyone was together again, fighting, Jamie scoring.
“We made very good matches before that but not with the same consistency of the year before, that was the problem.
“To go to Sevilla, the team who won the Europa League three times in a row, it’s not easy to go there and (only) lose 2-1, so when I was sacked it was a shock for me and for everyone.”